Is Performance Culture a Myth in the Philippines?

The first impressions a new manager may have when they arrive in the Philippines may not always be positive when looking at performance capabilities. There are challenges with language and critical thinking skills that pose new and significant challenges that would not have been encountered in your home country. While these can be improved over time, often the time and effort required will only result in marginal gains. In some cases it is better to look past this and look at how you can make the best with what you have.

In many industries intelligence and talent will only get you so far. Hard work, commitment and persistence will outweigh natural talent more often than not, and this is no different in the Philippines. If you can nurture a culture of performance you will do far better than trying to improve characteristics that at times seem like the product of systemic national conditioning via the school system and family life that is anti performance.

In order to build a performance culture you first need to have a good look at yourself as a leader. How will you consistently demonstrate the qualities you would like to reflect across your business? It is likely that many of these traits come naturally to you, or you would not have made it to a position of responsibility in the first place. However, you will not have the desired influence if you are not a visible leader and do your job from behind closed doors. So make sure you get out there and find ways to involve yourself in your business at all levels.

Your TLs will have the Most Influence

A team will almost always become a reflection of that Team Leader. If your TL’s leadership style and values do not align with the performance culture you are pursuing then you will find it very difficult to achieve your goal. You need to be uncompromising here and over time shape the leaders you have, or find new ones.

If you are in a position where you have to increase your headcount significantly in a short space of time then it is inevitable that you will have to compromise on the quality of your new hires to get the numbers. This is where the quality of your TL group will shine through.

The Reality of the Filipino Rank & File

At all levels you need people who value rewards based on performance, not just external rewards but internal as well. They get personal satisfaction from doing a good job and performing well. This is not something that will be shared by enough of your staff to create a high performance culture without careful planning. A sense of entitlement is quite common among staff, and a feeling that they deserve better just because they are there. Not because they perform well. This is where good people management can make or break your business.

It is important to recognize these limitations, and work with them rather than fight them. No matter how hard you try you will not change someone’s character, and you cannot change their values. You need to create a system that will encourage and nurture those capable of being high performers to live up to this potential, and not get frustrated with those around them. At the same time to have to keep the masses happy, the environment fun, yet still push them to that level of performance just a bit higher than where they are. Aim too high too quickly and you will lose staff. Or worse, have staff lose interest in performing at all but hang around because they are comfortable.

Some may not recognize what you are trying to do, due to the misalignment of values. While you may look at the mutual benefit of performance and the higher rewards your staff will receive, they will only see you as a demanding boss placing unreasonable pressure on them. They may not value performance as you do, but think they deserve the reward anyway. This is a fundamental problem. However, if you are patient and take baby steps in your operational development, even those most resistant to change will adapt and barely notice their performance improve.

Change Slowly!

There is an amazing level of resilience and adaptability possessed by many Filipinos that you can use to your advantage in the workplace. If you can manage change in a way that is slow enough to seem normal, people will conform. This is where your influential high performers must lead the way. If they are well liked, and respected, then people will naturally follow their lead. If you can make those poorer performers the odd ones out, then they will naturally conform just so they are part of the crowd again. This same dynamic works in the negative sense too, and can be quite poisonous for your workplace culture. The outcomes you reach will largely be driven by which individuals are the most influential, and who’s lead is being followed. This is not something you want to leave to chance. You have to get to know your people well, and develop a level of perception beyond what you see on the surface.

Again it is important to recognize that there are high quality individuals in the Philippines that will match it with anyone from other countries. They are hard to find, but they are out there. You will need some trial and error in your recruiting to learn how personality types differ, but if you persist and do not compromise on the standards of your operation you can achieve this. However, this is a long term outcome and commercial realities can put this beyond reach if your staff retention is not exceptional. The bigger your operation and the faster your growth trajectory the harder this becomes. The question then changes from whether you can achieve a high performance culture, to how can you cultivate high performance individuals, while keeping the masses happy enough so they continue to strive for a little bit more.

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